COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — It was way back in 1900 when Aseltines Cider Company opened their doors in Comstock Park (Plainfield Township). While a newer generation of cider makers and pressers took over the business in the 1980s, the original quality and taste the company was known for remained the same.
Around 300 apple growers from Michigan supply Aseltines with prime apples of all kinds to press cider. The farms range in size from 20 acres to more than 700 acres. Many of the farms that supply apples are within a 25 mile radius of the mill itself, and about 500 full crates of apples arrive each day in season for pressing. That’s about a thousand apples per crate!
West Michigan Stories got a rare behind the scenes look from General Manager Dick Klamt at how this delicious cider is made . “We only squeeze whole apples and whole apples alone. It’s a combination of a variety of all the apples and that seems to make the best juice” says Klamt. That said, the later season apples are generally the more with sugar in it and have a sweeter flavor.
As the apples arrive they’re emptied in to a container outside. They ride up a conveyor belt that takes them inside the mill to be quickly inspected, sorted, and washed. They’re then pulverized in to small pieces…almost like applesauce. These pieces move in to and through a large hose that literally get sprayed onto a nylon cloth surrounded by a frame. About 20 of these nylon layers are sprayed/made, then slid in to the press. As the press squeezes the stack of 20 nylon layers filled with the apple mixture, cider flows out through a screen to help filter large particles out.
Aseltines operates five presses and each pressing (the stack of 20 just mentioned) yields about 400 gallons. After being pressed, the cider is run through a pasteurization unit to 170 degrees. It eventually travels to a refrigerated storage/holding tank where it gets bottled almost immediately. Both gallon and half-gallon containers are filled and about 15 to 17 half-gallon cases are produced each minute. That’s about one pallet/skid every four minutes.
In case you’re wondering, there is no waste at Aseltines. What’s left over after pressing is known as apple pulp and typically gets shipped to dairy farms throughout the state and is consumed by cows.
Since Aseltines Cider Company is a wholesaler of cider, they do not sell directly to the consumer. That said, make sure to look for their cider in places like Meijer, Spartan Stores, and even Walmart bottled under the name “Aseltines”. Even local area vegetable and fruit stands carry the cider. In fact, Dave Homrich and his wife run such a stand on Alpine Road in Comstock Park between seven and eight mile road called Under The Pines. He’s been bringing apples to Aseltines for more than 45 years to be pressed. It really is some of the best cider you’ll ever have…made right here in West Michigan!